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Global issue 20

CJA: tackling violence towards journalists in the face of funding fears www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 83 commonwealth network The Long View have a key role in any re-launch. I know here in the UK, too, there is much political commitment to a revival of the Commonwealth, not least in Buckingham Palace.” Wright also broached the idea of expanding the Commonwealth by allowing new countries to join as associate, or observer, members. “These associates/observers could benefit from all technical and know-how exchange, pay membership fees, but not be represented in the governing structures, while eventually, when the time is ripe, progressing to full membership. Perhaps this could also be a way to see the return of former members like Zimbabwe and attract new ones like Myanmar.” As part of this organisational relaunch, he suggested that more funds could be generated for Commonwealth organisations. He stressed that he, like most others, does not distinguish between the three categories of organisations – the three intergovernmental organisations (Secretariat, Foundation, Commonwealth of Learning), the quasi-governmental associated organisations (for example, Commonwealth Local Government Forum, Commonwealth Telecommunications Organisation) and the many civil society organisations and professional bodies. “There is no reason why more resources would not be forthcoming, either from member states or external partners, such as the EU. To create momentum, the Malta CHOGM should, however, commit to member states doubling financial resources to all Commonwealth organisations.” Another delegate suggested that the profile of the Commonwealth could be raised with the launch of a regular radio programme where commentators from Commonwealth countries could give a view about international current affairs. Many speakers were interested in pushing for their organisation to get access to ministers and heads of government at CHOGM. However, Patsy Robertson, chair of the Commonwealth Association, warned other delegates that this was not practical. “I just think I need to add a note of realism,” she said, “in particular about the pressure at the Heads of Government Meeting. The whole point of the Heads of Government Meeting is for leaders, heads of government, to talk about the problems that confront them – and we’ve got lots of problems. This is the only opportunity they get to talk as a group.” She suggested that the Commonwealth People’s Forum has its meeting six months before CHOGM and then takes key messages to country leaders on behalf of civil society, rather than having its meeting during CHOGM. “Heads of government are not taking these messages back with them and I can tell you their officials aren’t taking it back either. So if you want to have some influence with heads of government, don’t try to do it at CHOGM.” It became clear at the conference that there was a major difference between groups that have guaranteed funding and those that don’t. Some of the membership organisations have a good income from their members on which they can rely. Others, such as the Commonwealth Journalists’ Association, only charge a small annual fee from their members and are having to work hard to find additional sources of funding. The Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA) has taken the decision to drop the word ‘Commonwealth’ from its name, as that will make additional funding streams available. In 2007 the CBA received £185,000 in combined funds from the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation. By 2012 that figure had fallen to £11,000 and now it gets nothing from either organisation. The CBA is to relaunch as the Public Media Alliance. The rebrand will also allow members from non-Commonwealth countries to have full membership and voting rights, as its work is also relevant in non-member countries. At the other end of the scale, several speakers acknowledged that the Commonwealth Games Federation had undergone a renaissance as a result of the Glasgow Games. The recent launch of the Commonwealth Exchange was also welcomed. In response to comments on the changing role of the Commonwealth Foundation, one delegate voiced the opinion that professional associations don’t have the standing now that they once did and that some civil society organisations based in member countries, that aren’t Commonwealth bodies as such, can often make a very valuable contribution to Commonwealth causes. The success of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi in winning the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize was cited as “Commonwealth civil society at If you want to have some influence with heads of government, don’t try to do it at CHOGM The Commonwealth Journalists Association (CJA) is working hard to protect journalists from violent attacks in Commonwealth countries, despite struggling with cuts to funding, Rita Payne, president of the CJA, told the conference. “While levels of violence against media workers worldwide are rising alarmingly,” she said, “the CJA is facing a financial crisis… as a result of the Commonwealth Foundation’s decision to end core-funding to the CJA and other Commonwealth-related associations.” Speaking during a session dedicated to building capacity, raising standards and increasing collaboration in Commonwealth organisations, Payne highlighted the plight of journalists in Pakistan, considered among the most dangerous Commonwealth countries for journalists. “So far this year 13 journalists have been killed and others are being regularly threatened,” she said. “Journalists in Pakistan face threats from an array of sources, including militants, criminals and warlords, as well as political, military and intelligence operatives.” Given the CJA’s limited resource base, Payne suggested that the key to success could be in increasing awareness of violence against media workers and working alongside larger organisations with a larger capacity for change. “The UK branch of the CJA is trying to strengthen awareness and understanding of international political and media developments through regular debates and discussions with high-profile speakers who are experts in their specific fields,” she said. The association, which is run almost entirely by voluntary workers, has struggled to secure funds to maintain its head office in Canada. This is of concern not only because volunteers have to invest more time in securing funding and donations, but also as it could potentially have repercussions for the wider Commonwealth community. “At a time when the credibility of the Commonwealth, its institutions and its international role is being questioned, failure to support the CJA and associated groups could be damaging for the organisation itself.”


Global issue 20
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